Earlier today on NBC’s Meet the Press, Tom Brokaw sat down with former Secretary of State Colin Powell. While I have many conflicted feelings about Powell’s endorsement, it ultimately affects only two groups of people. Most significantly, Obama. Obama finally has an endorsement from a grown-up. No doubt the most ardent anti-war supporters of the Senator will point to Powell just as they pointed to John Kerry during his now infamous testimony all those years ago. They will relish the endorsement – as well they should.
The other group in the crosshairs are military voters in the Republican base. The mainstream media will be so enamored with the news – they will probably forget to mention that Colin Powell, while he is greatly respected, was seen as a modern-day Judas for his tone when he left the Bush Administration. Military voters will weigh carefully the words… and they’ll remember that while Obama promised “Change” – he has also intimated he will keep President George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Defense Secretary Robert Gates — plus his full throated acceptance of the Powell endorsement (remember, Powell made the case for the Iraq War – the ‘war that never should have been waged.’)
Obama is to be congratulated here. But perspective must be kept, while Powell is a bonafide American hero – he separated from the Republican party a long time ago, at least in practice if not technically. By casting his lot with Obama, he signed the divorce papers.
Below is the rush transcript of Colin Powell on MTP. Check out Fausta’s take HERE.
TOM BROKAW: first, general colin powell, welcome back to “”meet the press.”” there is a lot of anticipation and speculation about you tak on the presidential campaign. we will get to tha in a moment. but this your old business, we might call this a tour of the horizon. however is elected president of the united states, the first day in loves fac this, an american economy that is in nea at war in two different countries. we have an energy crisis, big decisions to make about health care and globa climate change pch the president of the united states and the congress of the united state now have the highest disapproval rating that we have seen in manyyears. in all your years in public service, have you ever seen an incoming president face such daunting challenges?COLIN POWELL: no. i have seen more difficult times in our history when i think about the early 1970s and going through watergate, the nexton period, that was not a good time. but righnow, we are also facing a very daunting period. and i think the num ber one issue the president is going to have to deal with is the economy. that’s what the american people are worried about. and frankly, it’s not just an american problem, it’s an international problem. we can see how all the economies are linked and i that i this would b number one. the president will also have to make decisions quickly as to how to deal with iraq and afghanistan. and also, i think the president has to reach out to the world and show that there is a new president, a new administration that is looking forward t working with our friends and allies and in my judgment, also, willing to talk it people who we have not been willing to talk to before because this is a time for outreach.BROKAW: given the state of the american economy, can we continue our military commitments around the world at the level that they now exist?POWELL: we can. i think we have to look as to whether they have to be there but we hav the wealth, the wherewithal to did that. excuse m we have the ability to do that. first and foremost, we have to refew those commitments, see what they are, see what else is needed and make sure w give our troops what they need to get the job done as we have defined the job. we have that ability.BROKAW: i you wer called into the oval=2 0offers o january 21 by the happens to be, and he said to you, general powell, i need from you your recommendation on where I begin. what should be my priorities? where would you start?
POWELL: i would start with talking to the american people and talking to the world. and conveying a new image of american leadership, a new image ofamerica’s role in theworld. the problems will alway be there and there will be a crisis come along in the 21st or 22nd of january tha w don’t know about right now. so i think what the president has to do is to start using the power of the oval offic and the powe of his personality to convince the american people and it convince the world that america is solid, america is going to move forward. we are going to fix our economic problems. we are going to meet our overseas obligations but restoring a sense of purpose, a sense of confidence in the american people and in the internationa community in americaBROKAW: what’s not on the screen right now that concerns you, that should be more prominent in the mind o american people and the people running for president?POWELL: i think the american people and the gentlemen running for president will have to, early on, forever on education more than we have seen in the campaign so far. america has a ter rible educational problem in the sense that w have too many youngsters not finishing school. third of our kids don’t finish high school. 50% minorities don’t finish high school. we have to work on this and my wife and i are leading a campaign for in purpose. also, i think the new president has to realize that the world looks to america for leadership. and so we have to show leadership on some issues that the world is expecting us to. whether it’s energy, global warming and the environment. and i think we have to do a lot more with respect to poverty alleviation and helping the needy people of the world the we need to increase the amount of resources we put into a development programs to help the rest of the world. because when you help the poorest in the world, you start to move them up economic and social ladder and they are not going to b moving towards violence or terrorism and the kind tha we worry about.BROKAW: let’s move to the american presidential campaign now if we can. we saw at the beginning of the broadcast the short tees of what you had to say just a month ago. let’s shar with our viewers a little more of colin powell on the two candidates and your position.POWELL: i’m an american first and foremost and very proud. i said, i said to my beloved colleague john mccain, a friends of 25 years, john, i love you but i’ m not going to vote for you on the base of our friendship. and i said to Barack Obama, i admire you, i’m not going to vote for you just because you are black we have to move beyond this.BROKAW: General powell, you gave a campaign contribution to john mccain, you hav met twice at least with barack Obama. are you prepared to make a public declaration of which of the two candidates you are prepared to support?POWELL: yes, but let me lead into it this way. i know both of these individuals very well. known john for 25 arizona and i have gotten to know mr. obama quite well over the past two year both of them are distinguished american whose are patriotic, who are dedicated to the welfare of our country either one of them i think would be a good president. i have said to mr. mccain that i admire all he has done i have some concerns about the direction that the party has taken in recent years. it has moved more to the right than i would like to see it, but that’s a choice the party makes of the and i’ve said to m Obama, you is to pass the test of do you have enough experience? do you bring the judgment to the table that would give us confidence that you would be a good president? i have watched them over the past two years frankly and have had this conversation with them. i have especially watched over the last six or seven=2 0weeks as both of them have taken a final exam with regards to the economic crisis that we are in and coming out of the conventions. and i must say that i have got an good measure of both in the case of mr. mccain, i found that he was a little unsure as to how to deal with the economic problems that we were having. and almost every day there was a different approach to the problem. and that concerned me. got the sense that he did not have a true grasp of the economic problems that we had. and i was also concerned at the selection of governor palin. she is a very distinguished woman and she is to be admired but at the same time now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, i don’t believe she is ready to be president of the united states which is a job for the vice president. and so, that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that senator mccain made. on the Obama side, watched mr. Obama and i watched him during the seve week period and h displayed a steadiness and intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to workinged at problems like this and picking a vice president that i think is ready to be president on day on and also, in not just jping in and changing everyday, but showing intellectual vigor. i think that he is has a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well. i also believe that on the republican side, over the last seven weeks, the approach of the republican party and mr. mccain has become narrower and narrower. mr. Obama at the same time has given us a more inclusive, broader reach into the needs and aspirations of ourpeople. he is crossing lines, ethnic lines, racial lines, generational lines. he is thinkin about all villages have values, all towns have values. not just small towns have values. and i also are been disappointed frankly by some of the approaches that senator mccain has taken recently or his campaign has on issues that are not really central to the problems that the america people are worried about. this big ayers situation that’s been going on for weeks became something of a central points of the campaign. but mr. mccain sayin he is a washed up terrorist, why do w keep talking about in t? and why do we have th robo calls going on around the because o thi very very t that limited relationship that senator Obama has had with mr. ayers, some how mr. Obama is tainted. what they are trying to connect him to i some kin of terrorist. and i think that’s inappropriate. now, i understand with what politics is all about, i know how you can go after one another and that’s good. but i think this guess too far an i think i has made the mccain campaign look a little narrow. not what the american people are looking for of the and i radio at these kinds of approaches to the campaign and they trouble me. and the party has moved even further to the righ and governor palin has indicated a further rightward shift. i would have difficulty with two mor e conservative appointments to the supremecourt, but that’ what we would be looking a in had a mccain administration.POWELL: i’m also troubled by, not with what senator mccain says but what members of the party say. and it is permitted to be said. such things as, well we know that mr. Obama is a muslim. the correct answer is he is not a muslim he is a christian, he has always been a christia but the really right answer is what if he is? is there something wrong with being a muslim i this country? the answer is no, thas not america is there something wrong with a seven-year-old america kid believing he could be president yet i have heard senator members of my party sayin hi h is a muslim and the association of a terrorist. this is not way we should b doing it in america. a picture i saw in the magazine, a photo essay about troops serving in iraq and afghanistan. and one picture at the tail end of this foet yes esessay was a mother at arlington cemetery and she had the head on the head stone of her son’s grave. and a picture focused in, you could seept writing on head stone and it gave his awards, purple heart, bronze star, showed that he died this iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death, he was 20 yearsold. and then at the very top of th head stone, didt have a christian cross. it didn’t have a sta of david. it has a crescent and star of the islamicfaith. and his name was kareem rashad and he was an american. he was born in new jersey. he was 14 years old at the titles time of the 9/11 and he waited until he could serve his country and h gave his life. now, we have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way and john mccain is as nondiscriminatory anyone i know. bu i’m troubled about the fact that we are in the party, we have these kind of expressions. so when i loot all of thi and think back on my own career. we have twoindividuals, either one of them could be a good president. but which is the president that we needno which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time? and i come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of th inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across america, because of who he i and his abilities and you have t take that int account, as well as his substance. he has both style and substance. he has met the standard o being a successful president being an exceptional president. i think he is a transformational figure. he is a new generation coming in to the world, onto the world stage, on to the american stage and for that reason i’ll be voting for barack Obama.BROKAW: Will you be campaigning for him as well?POWELL: i don’t plan to. two weeks left. Let them continue to go at each other. but i will be voting for him.BROKAW: i can already anticipate some of the reaction to this. let’s begin with the charge that john mccain has continued to make against barack Obama. you sit there as a man who served in vietnam, commanded a battalion of 101. joint chiefs, national security adviser and secretary of state. nothing in barack Obama’s history that nearly parallels any of the experiences that you have had and while he has performed impressively in the context of a campaign. there is a vast difference between sitting this the oval office and making good decisions and doing well in a campaignPOWELL: and he knows that. and i have watched him over the last two years a he has educated himself, as he has become very familiar with these issues. he speaks authoritatively. he speaks with great insight into the challenges we are facing both military and political and economic nature. and he is surrounding himself, i’m confident, with people who will be able to give him the expertise that20he at the moment does nothave. so i have watched an individual who has intellectual vigor and who dives deeply into issues and approaches issues wit a very, very steady hand. and so i’m confident that he will be ready to take on these challenges on january 21.BROKAW: and there will be some, how many, no one can say for sur but some who will say this is an african-american, distinguished american supporting another african-american because of race.POWELL: if i had only had that in mind, i could have done this six, eight, ten months ago. i really have been going back and forth between somebody i have the highest respect and regard for, john mccain and somebody i was getting to know, barack Obama. and was onl in the last couple of months that i settled on this and i can’t deny that it will be a histori event when an african-american becomes president. and should that happen, all americans should be proud. not just african-american. but all americans that we have reached this point in our national history where such a thing could happen. it would also not onl electrify i country, but electrify the world.BROKAW: you have had difference differences with barack Obama. he has said he would begin removing american troops from iraq. here is what you have said about that. i have found in my many years of service to set dates that don’t coincide with situations on the ground tend not to be a useful strategy. arbitrar deadlines snatched out of air and based on some calculation is not the way it run almilitary or strategic operation of this type. that was on february 10 of this year on cnn. now that you have barack Obama’s ear and in a new fashion, will you say to him drop your idea of setting a deadline to pull the troops out of iraq?POWELL: i think it is a great line, thanks for pulling it up. and i believe that. as i watch what’s happening right now, the united states is negotiating an agreement with the iraqi governmen that will call for most major combat operations t cease b next june and for american forces to start withdrawing to their bases and that agreement will provide fo all american troops to be gone by 2011 but, conditioned o the situation as it exists at that time so there already i a timeline that’s being developed between iraqis and the united states government so i think whoever becomes the president, whether its john mccain or whether it’s barack Obama, w are going to see it continue to drawdown and which day so many troops come out or what units come out, that wil be determined by the commanders and the new presiden bu i think we are under a path to reducin our prescence in iraq history of the next couple of years increasingly, this problem is going to be20solved b the iraqis. they are going to make the political decisions. where security forces are going to take over. and they have to create an environment of reconciliatio where all the people come together and make Iraq much much betterplace.BROKAW: let me go back to something that you raised a moment ago and that’s well ayers, a forme member of the the weathermen who is now active in school nishs illinois. he had past association with barack Obama. would i have been mor helpful for wel ayers, to on his own, renounce his own past? a man who has radical in america targeting the pentagon and the capital. he wrote a boo about it that came out in 2001 on september 11 said we didn’t bomb enough.POWELL: is despicable and i have no track for well ayers. to continue to tal about it in 01 i also despicable. but t suggest that because mr. barack Obama had some contacts, very casual in nature, where he sat on and educational board over time is somehow connected to his thinking or actions i think is a terrible stretch. it’s demagoguery.BROKAW: when i asked you about your own role and decision to g to wa in iraq, barack Obama has been critical of your appearance before the united nations at that time. bob woodward has a new wok out called “”the war within.”” and here is wh at he had to say p about colin powell and his place in administration. powell didn’t think iraq was a necessary war and yet had gone along in 100 ways large and small. resisted at times that this suck scumme to the mow memory opportunity even obedience to the president powell had been the closer for the president’s case. and then you were inrighted to appear before the iraq study group. why did we go into iraq with so few people former secretary of state james baker asked? he unloaded former white house chief of staff added, he was angry, he was mad as hel. powell, baker turned to a netta and said he’s one guy who could have perhaps prevented this from fr happening. what’s the lesson in all of that from a, for a new secretary of stat o for a new national security adviser.POWELL: well, let’s start at the beginning. i said to the president in 2002 we should try to solve this diplomatically and avoid war. president accepted that and took it to the u.n. the president by the end of 2002, believed that the u.n. was not going to solve the problem and he made a decision that we had to prepare for military action. i fully supported that. and i have never said anything to suggest i did in the support going to war. i thought the evidence was there. and it was not just my closing of the whole deal with my u.n. speech, i know the importance o that speech. i had regret a lot of information that the intel ligence community provided us was wrong. three months before my speech where there had to be a majority, the united states congress expressed its support to use military force that was necessary. so, my unhappiness with that, we didn’t do it right. it was easy to get to baghdad. but then we forgot that there was a lot more that had to be done and we didn’t have enough force to impose our will on country or to deal with the insurgencecy when this broke out and that ir egret.BROKAW: Removing the weapons of mass destruction.POWELL: assure you that it was not a correct assessment by anybody in the administration would have stoppeditBROKAW: removing the weapon of mass destruction fro the equation because we now know that i did not exist. it was a war of necessity or just a war of choice?POWELL: without the weapons of mass destruction present, as conveyed to us by the intelligenc community in the mostly powerful way, i don’t think there would be a wa it was the reason we took it to the public. it was the reason we too it to the american people, to the congress we supported it on that basis and the presentation i made to the un. without those weapons of mass destruction, when iraq did though the present not world the kind of threat that it did if it had weapons of mass destruction.BROKAW: you do know that are supporters of barack Obama because he opposed the war. and they will say who needs colin powell?POWELL: i’m not here to get their approval or lack of approval. Im here to express who im going to vote forBROKAW: there is a summing up going on now as the bush/chene administration winds down. we would like to share with our audience some of what you had to say about the two men who are at the top of the administration at the convention in 00, this is colin powell on president bush and dick cheney at that time.POWELL: dick cheney is one of the most distinguished and dedicated public serves vants this nation has ever had. he will be a sush purp vice president. this the bush — cheney team will be a great team for a merica. putting our nation had a course of hope and optimism.BROKAW: was that prophetic or wrong?POWELL: it’s what i believed. it reflected the agenda of the new president. compassion conservative. and i think we have advanced our freedom agenda. we have helped people around the world. i think we have done a lot to solv conflicts such as in liberia and elsewhere. but at the same time, we have managed to convey to the world that we are mor unilateral than we really are. we have not explained ourselves well enough. and we unfortunately hav left an impression with the world that is not a good one. and the new president is going to have to fix the reputatio that we have left with the rest of the world. now, let me mak a point here. the united states is still seen as the leader of the world that wants to befree. even though the numbers are down with respect to favorable rating. at every embassy tomorrow morning, people will be lined up and all say the same thing, we want to go to america. so we are still the leader of the world that wants to be free, still the inspiration to the rest of the world and we can come back. in2000, it wa a moment where i believe that the new administration coming in would be abl to achieve the agenda that president bush had set out, compassion that conservative.BROKAW: but it failed?POWELL: i don’t think it was successful, excuse me, i don’t think it was as successfu as it might have been. as you see from the presidential approval ratings, the american people hav found the administration wanting.BROKAW: let me ask you a couple of quick questions. i know you are very close to president bush 41, are you still in touch wit him on a personal basis and what do you think h will think of you supporting barack Obama.POWELL: i will let him speak for himself an let others speak for themselves. let me make one point, tom. both senator mccain and senator Obama would be a good president it wasn’t easy for me to disappoint senator mccain in the way that i have this morning. and i regret that. but i strongly believe that at this point in america’s history, we need a president that will not just continue eve with the ne faces and continue and maverick aspects, who will not continue basically the policies that we hav bee following in recent years. think we need a france formational figure. i think we need a president who is a generational change and that’s why i’m supporting barrack Obama. not out of any lac of respect or administration for senator mccain.BROKAW: and finally, how muc of factor to you think race will be when voters go into the booth?POWELL: i don’t want to answer that question. one may say that it’s going to be a big factor and a lot of people say they will vote for senator Obama but they don’t pull the lever. others might say that has already happened. people already finding other reasons to say they ar not voting for him, he’s a muslim, he i this. so we may have seen the so-called bradley factor in the current spread between the candidates. and so that remains to be seen. i hope it is not the case. i thin we have advance considerably i this country since the days of tom bradley. and i hope that is not the case. it would be very unfortunate if it were the case.BROKAW: finally, if senator Obama is elected president will there be a place for colin powell in that maybe as ams about door at large in africa or to take on the daunt be task of resolving the israeli-palestinian issue.POWELL: i served 40 years in government and i am not looking forward to a position o assignment. of course, i have always said i the president asks you to do something, you have to consider it. but i am in n way interested this return to government. but i would sit and talk t any president0Awho wishes to talk to me.BROKAW: you are though the ruling it outPOWELL: i would sit and talk with any president but i am not anxious to rule it inBROKAW: general colin powell, thank you for being with us this morning. appreciate it.